8 ways to teach children about food

Society is always finding better and more efficient ways to do things. In some ways, this is great. My life is definitely better thanks to the tap and go chip on my credit card, the Yelp app on my phone, and the ability to buy movie tickets online.

But in other ways, it isn’t so great.

I’m talking about cooking here.

Now that frozen meals with appealing pictures on the packages are readily available, and drive thrus are on nearly every major corner in a city, and gourmet grocery stores are offering ready made meals (even healthy ones), people are not cooking as often. And since people aren’t cooking as much any more, kids aren’t learning to cook either, perpetuating the problem.

I’m generalizing here because of course not everyone has abandoned cooking. But even if they haven’t, it’s still not always being passed on to their children. Soccer practice, book club, working late and the general rush of western life means that most people (understandably) just can’t find the time to teach their kids about food.

Which is why I’m glad that Jamie Oliver started Food Revolution Day (that’s today!) – a global campaign to promote mandatory food education for children in schools. This is something I strongly believe in for so many reasons. Not only could it have positive benefits for health, but it also would reinforce the advantages of home cooking for cost savings, family bonding, and socializing.

Along with signing his petition for mandatory food education in schools, today I also wanted to do my part by sharing with you 8 ways to teach children about food!

1. Take them to the farmers market in the summer – between the colourful produce and the live music that is often there, there’s actually a lot of entertainment for kids to be found at farmers markets. And it’s a great time to talk to them about where food really comes from (i.e. not a box)!

8 ways to teach children about food

2. Go to a local pick-your-own farm – having worked at a farm one summer, I can definitely attest that kids adore pick-your-own type farms. I remember seeing kids come out of the strawberry patch, their faces covered in red juice, with the biggest smiles on their faces! Not only is it a fun activity for them, but it also helps them learn about the work that goes into farming and harvesting food.

3. Take them grocery shopping – taking your kids to the grocery store will help them learn how to pick out healthy foods. It’s a great opportunity to teach them practical tips like how to choose a ripe avocado and what’s the difference between cuts of meat, as well as nutrition skills like reading food labels. You can make it fun for younger kids by playing games, like “I Spy” or “20 questions” too.

8 ways to teach children about food

4. Enlist their help in the kitchen – getting your kids to help you in the kitchen is the best way to give them the practical food skills that they’re going to need once they move out on their own. Eat Right Ontario has a great resource with suggestions for how kids of different ages can help in the kitchen. As kids get older, they can do more than just help out with cooking. Give them some responsibility by asking them to choose what vegetable they want with dinner, asking them to pick what to make for dinner for one night, and even getting them to prepare the dinner themselves when they’re ready!

5. Give them a vegetable plant or herb to grow in your garden – give them responsibility for looking after it and let them choose how to cook with it once it’s ready to eat! This is a great way to get kids to try new vegetables, as they’ll be a lot more likely to try a new vegetable they’ve grown themselves.

8 ways to teach children about food

6. Do research together to answer their questions about food – kids are always full of questions. If they ask you a question about food that you don’t know, make it your “project” to do research together to find out the answer.

7. Expose them to different foods and cuisines – try out new vegetables you find at the farmers markets, take them to ethnic restaurants, and go out to authentic local restaurants when travelling to give them a broad appreciation for all the different foods and cuisines out there!

8 ways to teach children about food

8. Advocate for food and nutrition education in schools – like I’ve already said, one of the biggest missing pieces from children’s food education these days is the lack of education in schools. Not all parents will have the time, knowledge, or inclination to teach their kids about food, so it’s important that all kids receive some kind of standardized food education in school. If you believe in this, make sure to sign Jamie Oliver’s petition for compulsory practical food education in schools!

Do you think mandatory food education should be implemented in school curriculums? 

9 Comments

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9 Responses to 8 ways to teach children about food

  1. Thank you for this, Chelsea, on this Food Revolution Day! As a former educator, I can tell you, generally speaking, there is not adequate food education in our schools. – which is more than just the food pyramid. It is really, quite frankly, deplorable. With so much emphasis on standardized testing, there’s little room for life skills like home economics (ie food ed). Luckily there are some schools attempting to change this and others that have successful farm to table programs (yay!). I hope these schools can serve as a model for other schools attempting to implement a program. It really does take a community effort to support this type of program, however. Thank you for this important post, Chelsea! Well done!

    • Chelsea

      I definitely agree that some schools have been making efforts to add in food education, but I hope we soon see the day when it’s mandatory for all schools! I know it sounds antiquated, but I’d love to see home ec classes back in high schools. Not only for cooking, but also to teach other life skills that students are no longer being taught.

  2. I’ve never heard of Food Revolution Day but I agree that it is a fantastic idea! Today’s society is far too dependent on packaged foods and educating our children will help change the foundation of the future. I love all of the ideas you listed here and I hope more people start to make a change for the better!

  3. Such fabulous tips, Chelsea! Everyone’s talking about various strategies to reduce child obesity but nothing is as effective as food education. The earlier the kids can internalise the importance of healthy eating, the more it will become part of their life (rather than something they “need” to do because of a weight or health issue). There are so many topics we learn in school which never come up in life later on- surely those can be replaced with something as important as food education!

    • Chelsea

      Seriously right? I remember in high school I had to take a course on careers – all I remember doing in that course was taking online career quizzes that told me I should be a taxodermist. LOL! It was so pointless.

  4. Love this post, you are a lady after my own heart. I think it’s SO important that children (and adults!) how how to cook and feed themselves. I love the tips about exposure, because we learn so much just by seeing, touching, smelling different fruits/veg at the store or market.

  5. I love this post. I’m all for teaching kids about making healthy choices, and I’ve seen time and time again when they’re involved in the process: growing food, selecting it, prepping it, cooking it, then they’re thrilled with eating it too, even the veggies. Also they eat what they know so if we expose them to more wonderful things, they’ll eat those as well.

    • Chelsea

      Exactly! And on that note I think it’s important to educate parents too about exposing their kids to different foods. Sometimes it takes a kid 15 exposures to a new food before they like it – a lot of parents don’t realize this and give up too soon!

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